John Harbaugh stands by claim that Patriots broke rules in 2015 playoff game
It has been nearly two years since the New England Patriots beat the Baltimore Ravens in a playoff game thanks in part to a loophole in the NFL rule book, and John Harbaugh still has not completely moved on.
While speaking to reporters on Thursday, Harbaugh was asked about the Patriots exploiting the rules regarding eligible and ineligible receivers. He didn’t exactly ignore the question.
“I believe what I believe, and I think it’s all been proven to be right,” Harbaugh said, per Ben Volin of the Boston Globe. “The point was, you had an ineligible receiver that wasn’t identified … and the official had no way to identify that for the defense. They had never addressed that before.”
On the play in question, Patriots running back Shane Vereen declared himself ineligible but lined up outside the tackle box. Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui became the fifth eligible receiver, though he was lined up like an offensive lineman. Vereen never passed the line of scrimmage and the Patriots threw pop passes to Hoomanawanui, confusing the Ravens.
Though referee Bill Vinovich clearly said over his microphone that Vereen was ineligible and even added “don’t cover 34,” Harbaugh was furious. The NFL later changed the rule and now requires all ineligible players to line up inside the tackle box.
At the time, however, the play was perfectly legal. Harbaugh’s only argument seems to be that it was unfair because it had never been done before. Of course, as Volin notes, Harbaugh had no problem using a similar play to his advantage last season.
And what about a few weeks ago, when the Ravens instructed all of their players to commit holding penalties in order to run out the clock at the end of the game? Some would argue Harbaugh was exploiting a loophole then. You can see a video of the play here.
At the end of the day, Harbaugh is angry that he was outsmarted. The fact that he still takes time to address the play two years later further proves that.